Sunday, May 14, 2017

Close The Year With Student Voices

As the hectic pace of May continues to build, it is easy to get wrapped up in end-of-the-year procedures. During this time teacher librarians everywhere are making lists of overdue items, teaching classes, completing library inventory reports, and more. What if we also used these last few weeks as a time to invite students to give us feedback on how the year went for them in the library? This is exactly what we have done at Lakeside High School for the past few weeks, and the feedback has been informative. We wanted to know how our services impacted the students. We also want to know how students think we can improve. Read on for a brief description of how we have heard their voices.

Google Form Survey

We decided to create a Google Form to email out to all of the students. We asked only four questions (3 multiple choice and 1 optional short paragraph written answer).

  • The library media center has a warm and inviting climate for the LHS learning community. (Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree)

A large number of students agree that the library climate is warm and inviting!

  • The student resources in the library media center serve your needs (both academic & recreational). (Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree)
The majority of students that responded gave positive reviews of library resources.

  • The library staff demonstrates a good understanding of technology and assists students with technology problems in a timely manner. (Always, Sometimes, Rarely, Never)

The majority of students that responded seem to be happy with our technology assistance.

  • Please tell us how we can improve our services. (If you should have a complaint, please provide a possible solution). 41 students responded to this optional short answer response.

We emailed the link out to approximately 1360 students. 110 voluntarily participated! I must admit, I was a bit nervous to open ourselves up to anonymous feedback in this format. The results were very encouraging. We also identified a need that our users indicated in their written responses. Several students requested that we provide a quiet space for study before school and during lunch. I can understand this request since the library typically has well over 60-100 students in its spaces during those periods. We have always had a "quiet zone" available to students, but few have asked for it. This feedback lets us know it is still a need to a small population of our users. We are already advertising the "quiet zone" again even though there are only a few weeks left of school. In addition, we have been brainstorming additional quiet spaces for next year and have been consulting with our administrators on future possibilities. This process has let me see the value of seeking our user's voices! If I wouldn't have taken a risk in posting the survey for everyone, we may have not learned about this need!


We also decided to create an opportunity for students to share their voices in a more personal way. Kaitlyn Price (co-librarian) and I have been experimenting with Padlet this year. We thought it would be interesting to ask students what they will remember most about the library from this school year. We decided to make this a fun activity with the opportunity to win something. (If students give feedback, they get to enter a prize drawing.) We posted this question on a Padlet, "What will you remember about the library this year? Tell us what stands out to you." We put this on an iPad at the front desk and announced the drawing for anyone that participates. So far, 14 students have participated. They have written some wonderful things for us to read. It has made our library staff realize how much being consistently friendly and supportive can make a difference to young people. Here are some of their responses:

"I like to sit in the library and read or study while listening to music. The librarians are always really nice, whether it's letting me leave my stuff in the library or suggesting books. I'll remember the book that I was suggested with one week to read, and of course the librarian who suggested it." 
"I will remember the book club. I was introduced to a new book called Unwind and the discussions we had and getting to talk to other schools about the book Wonder."
Padlet Screenshot

"I will remember how welcoming all the librarians are. Each time I come it I feel at home and I never feel like I'm going to be turned away. I will always remember how they helped me come out of my bubble this year and encouraged me to participate in school events." 

"I will remember the first time coming here for a tour of the campus. The library was the most memorable thing about the school. I could not wait to come in here and feel comfortable reading with everyone else. Also, me and my friends eat in the library for breakfast and lunch and we always enjoy being in here." 


Kaitlyn and I also decided to give students an option to respond on Flipgrid by creating short videos. So far, students have favored the Padlet more. (Most say that they don't like making video responses.)  Previously, I had also used Flipgrid to allow students to answer this question, "How has the school library changed you this year?" We had 8 students and 1 teacher respond. I recently used some of these as part of a keynote presentation at a library conference! Special thanks to Microsoft Education for providing Flipgrid to Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts this school year. It has made a difference for me and our learning community through these activities.

Incorporate Feedback Into An Annual Report

Now that we have this data, we must do something with it! Kaitlyn and I can't wait to share portions of these results on our annual report. The survey shows areas of strength according to our learners; in addition,  we know the areas that we need to improve for next year. The Padlet and Flipgrid entries share specific stories from students. Such endorsements from student users are gold to library stakeholders! These wonderful quotes and stories share the value of the school library program to our administrators and school board. Now that we have tried this with success, I want to improve our surveys in the future. There are so many ways we can solicit student feedback!

I hope you will also consider stepping out of your comfort zone and invite your student users to give feedback. You never know what ideas they may present to you. It is true that all feedback will not be useful. One thing is for certain, if students see you acting on their feedback and/ or appropriate requests, good things will happen. Such actions show them that their voices are important and the library is for them. I think you will be surprised how little input students typically have in public school. Why not lead this process from the library?

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  1. Great article Stony! It's funny you mentioned students wanting a quiet space. In the survey I gave my students, they requested the same thing! We typically have large groups of students in the library before school and at lunch, so it is not very quiet.

    1. Hey, Brian! I'm glad it's not just our students sharing this request 😊. We have been advertising our quiet spaces more frequently as a result of these surveys. Also planning on creating more study spaces next year. This will be a fun thing to do for 17-18 🎸πŸ’ͺ